California Appeals Court Enjoins Nonjudicial Foreclosure For Lenders’ Failure To Comply With HUD Servicing Requirements


On December 13, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District held that the HUD servicing requirements were incorporated by reference into the borrowers’ FHA deed of trust and served as conditions precedent to the acceleration of the debt or to foreclosure. Pfeifer v. Countrywide Home Loans, No. A133071, 2012 WL 6216039 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 13, 2012). In this case, after the lender declared the borrowers’ FHA-insured mortgage in default and commenced nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings, the borrowers filed suit against the lender seeking general and punitive damages, as well as to enjoin the foreclosure proceedings and to obtain declaratory relief, for failure prior to provide the 30-day advance debt validation notice required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) or to conduct a face-to-face interview required by HUD’s servicing regulations prior to commencing foreclosure proceedings. On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the borrowers did not have a claim for damages against the collection firm under the FDCPA, because that firm was not a debt collector under the statute. However, the court reversed the trial court’s judgment as to the borrowers’ request for injunctive relief based on their wrongful foreclosure claim and their request for declaratory relief. The court agreed with the borrowers that the deed of trust incorporates by reference the servicing requirements of HUD, including the face-to-face interview, and the lenders had to comply with the servicing terms prior to commencing a valid nonjudicial foreclosure. The court also held that tender was not required, because the borrowers were seeking to enjoin a pending foreclosure sale based on the lenders’ failure to comply with the HUD servicing requirements. Concurring with those courts that distinguish an offensive action from a defensive action, the court explained that the borrowers had no private right of action for failure to comply with the HUD regulations and could not seek damages based on their wrongful foreclosure action, but held that the HUD regulations may be used as an affirmative defense to a judicial foreclosure action instituted by the creditor.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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